Guide to the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta for Families


Balloon Fiesta is a not-to-missed event for all Albuquerque families (and visitors, of course). But bringing kids to Balloon Fiesta can be a big undertaking. No worries though! There are certainly some things we can do to make it easier on ourselves.

We’d like to thank Manzano Day School for sponsoring this Guide to Balloon Fiesta.

Manzano Day School is dedicated to innovative child-centered education, excellence in teaching, and Joy in Learning® to prepare children for a life of discovery and community involvement in our diverse world. Founded in 1938, Manzano Day School is an independent, nonprofit elementary school for children in pre-kindergarten through fifth grade. The school’s historic six-acre campus borders Old Town and downtown Albuquerque. Get a jump-start on the 2024-2025 academic year by attending Manzano Day School’s Open House on Sunday, October 15, from 1:00 – 3:00 p.m. Prospective parents will learn about Manzano Day School’s core values, how outstanding faculty inspire Joy in Learning® through our curriculum, the one-of-a-kind Fenton Ranch environmental education, and service learning projects, as well as the admission process and financial aid. RSVP here to attend!

The 2023 Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta takes place October 7-15, 2023. Make sure to spend some time on the Balloon Fiesta’s website to get even more familiar with the event.


Tickets are $15 per session. Kids under 12 are free.

Getting There

Parking: Parking can be tricky! If you plan to drive to Balloon Fiesta Park, arrive VERY early (between 4-5 am) or you will get stuck in traffic and miss the balloon launch. Parking is $20 cash per car.

Park & Ride: Avoid congested traffic and parking conditions around Balloon Fiesta Park by using park and ride. Park & Ride buses use expedited routes to avoid the traffic. Note that there are no park & ride services on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday of Balloon Fiesta. Learn all about it and purchase park and ride tickets here.

Ride Your Bike: Another way to beat the traffic is to ride your bike to Balloon Fiesta! There’s a bike trail that runs right into Balloon Fiesta Park. There’s even a bike valet. Read all about how to bike to the Fiesta here.

Check out these tips from our contributors all about going to Balloon Fiesta with your little ones.

1. Balloon Glows & Fireworks

Consider going to a Balloon Glow in the evening. The morning launches are spectacular, but if you can’t bring yourself to get up that early with your littles, try a glow. The Special Shapes Glowdeo is always a hit! And don’t forget to stay for the fireworks.

Insider tip: All kinds of toys that light up are for sale as the sun goes down. If you want to save some cash, bring your own glow sticks. Yay for the Dollar Store!

2. Avoid the Crowds If Possible

If your kids aren’t in school yet or you have some flexibility with their schooling, attend Balloon Fiesta early in the week (Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday). APS’s fall break is on the Thursday and Friday of Balloon Fiesta, so you can expect those mornings and of course, weekends to be a little more crowded.

3. Safety First When Bringing Kids to Balloon Fiesta

The New Mexico State Police will be at Balloon Fiesta during each session with their TAG YOUR TOTS program. Adults can register their children with the State Police and have a wristband placed on each of their children. If a child who has been separated from his or her parents is found, officials will immediately be able to contact the parents based on the information on the child’s wristband. The TAG YOUR TOTS location is just south of the Main Stage.

4. First Aid

First Aid is located in the Public Safety Building southeast of the Main Stage. If you need assistance, contact any public safety officer.

5. Balloon Trading Cards

Older children might enjoy collecting balloon trading cards. The balloon pilots and crew create trading cards for their balloons that kids can collect. If you’re really into these, go at the beginning of the week because the balloon crews usually run out toward the end of the Fiesta.

6. Ride Your Bike

Have you ever ridden your bike to Balloon Fiesta? Strap the babes on the back of your bike or hook up the bike trailer and avoid the traffic. Balloon Fiesta even has a bike valet to keep your ride safe while you enjoy the festivities. The bike trail runs along the AMAFCA North Diversion Channel, and crosses underneath Paseo del Norte and Alameda Blvd. continuing north where it crosses from the west side to the east, ending just north of the Balloon Museum. Get more details.

7. Buy Tickets Online

Save yourself the hassle of standing in line when you get to Balloon Fiesta Parks and buy tickets online.

8. Bring Cash and Card

There are ATMs at the park but navigating the crowds can be difficult. Be sure you have both options just in case. If you choose to drive to the field and park, the parking fee is $20 and is cash only. Also, some vendors in the park may only accept cash.

9. Pack Snacks

Yes! Snacks are allowed. Each person is allowed only one bag or backpack. And bags are subject to search. No glass or alcohol. Food is available for purchase; however, it is expensive and lines are often long. So keep those babies happy, and bring snacks, drinks, and breakfast along. A thermos of hot chocolate is a great idea too.

10. Wear your child or bring a stroller or wagon.

There will be a lot of walking, so I liked to wear my babies in a carrier to Balloon Fiesta. But some moms recommend a stroller or wagon. (Make sure it has bicycle-type tires because the field can be muddy.) Strollers and wagons can be difficult with the crowds. But they will contain your children and hold all the jackets you will shed as the morning warms up.

11. Dress in Layers

Wear plenty of layers for the cold morning. You will arrive before sun-up and it will be cold. But you’ll be peeling off the jackets soon enough when the sun comes up.

12. Pick a Spot

Pick a spot on the field and settle in instead of walking around from place to place.  Lawn chairs are allowed at the park as are blankets.  If you have little kids it might be easiest to settle into a spot and take it all in from there. The field is marked as a grid (letters on one axis and numbers on the other). Tell big kids your grid letter/number so they can find you if you get separated. (Or if you choose not to sit and watch, choose a prominent location as a meeting spot just in case.)

13. Listen to the Zebras

Be respectful of the people in the striped shirts as they are the launch directors. They work hard to keep Balloon Fiesta safe for everyone while still allowing people to experience the balloons up close.

14. Sensory Sensitivity Suggestions

If you have a child with sensory sensitivities, bring noise-canceling headphones. The flame noises during inflation can be loud and jarring. Also, a sensory activation vehicle (S.A.V.E) by KultureCity will be at Balloon Fiesta. The vehicle provides an opportunity for those with sensory needs to attend and enjoy Balloon Fiesta. It will be located on Main Street during the event. Get more info here.

15. Good to Have Gear

The ground is often wet with rain or dew. So waterproof shoes or boots will keep little toes dry and warm. Also, don’t forget sunglasses because you will want to look up at the balloons as they launch. And by all means, don’t forget the camera. It will be beautiful!

16. Keep an Eye on the Weather

If it’s raining or windy, launches will get canceled or delayed. Check the weather the night before you go and the morning of.

17. Souvenirs

You can avoid the souvenir tent and buy official merchandise online. You can also go to Balloon Fiesta Park the Thursday before the fiesta and purchase merchandise before Balloon Fiesta even begins.

18. Set Everyone’s Expectations

If you have kids, you know expectations are everything. Talk about what to expect. Remind the family about traffic and crowds. But show them pictures to get them excited about what they will see. Also, have a plan B if balloons don’t launch due to weather. Maybe a trip to the zoo, the movie theatre, or an indoor play spot is in order if all doesn’t go as planned.

19. Family Nap Time Is a Must

Don’t plan to do something important during the afternoon or evening after waking up so early. Even big kids and parents are going to want an afternoon nap after a mass ascension.

20. The most important tip of all . . . have fun and make great memories!

ABQ Mom team member, Alyssa Ochs says, “Breathe and mentally prepare yourself in advance to go with the flow and just get out and do it! Don’t get hung up on sleep/nap schedules getting thrown off or the stress of the crowds. This is such an amazing and unique New Mexico tradition that may not be easy in the moment, but it’s definitely worth it in the long run for the memories you’ll make with your kids.”

New Mexico Momcast Episode: “How to Navigate the Balloon Fiesta with Your Kids”

More Articles About Balloon Fiesta

Chase Crew :: Behind the Scenes at Balloon Fiesta

Chase Crew :: Behind the Scenes at Balloon Fiesta

It's 2:30 a.m. and my alarm goes off. I jump out of bed. Yes, that's right, I said jump. Why? Because IT'S BALLOON FIESTA!...
5 Tips for Biking to the Balloon Fiesta

5 Tips for Biking to the Balloon Fiesta

The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta attracts about 750,000 visitors each year, which means a whole lotta traffic! There's nothing I hate more than sitting...
Balloon Fiesta

Balloon Fiesta:: A Mom’s Guide to Navigating the Balloon Fiesta

Balloon Fiesta is almost here and I can hardly contain my excitement!  Fall is such a magical time in Albuquerque, but Balloon Fiesta is...
albuquerque moms blog lifestyle photos albuquerque balloon fiesta

Visit the Balloon Fiesta Without Losing Your Children or Your Mind

I love Balloon Fiesta. I've lived in New Mexico for 11 years, and the only year I did not attend the fiesta was the...

Helpful Articles for Out of Town Visitors

Santa Fe Fun for Kids

Santa Fe Fun for Kids

Oftentimes people think of Santa Fe as an adult-only town. And certainly, it does have its fair share of fabulous restaurants, art galleries, historical...

Guide to New Mexico State Parks, Lakes, Hiking, & More

We live in a beautiful state. There are so many different parts of New Mexico that have so much to offer, and the list...

Guide to Family-Friendly Hikes in the Albuquerque Area

I have always been and will always be an indoorsy girl. My favorite outdoor activities include eating on a patio and going to baseball...
Guide to Indoor Play in the Albuquerque Area

Guide to Indoor Play in the Albuquerque Area

Whether it’s cold, rainy, or just way too hot, moms need indoor play options in Albuquerque all year long. Luckily, there are plenty of...
tacos in Albuquerque

10 Tasty Tacos in Albuquerque

Tacos. Could there be a more perfect food? A tortilla can hold any number of combinations. There are so many options for meat and...
Patio Dining

Guide to Patio Dining in the Albuquerque Area

Nothing is quite as lovely during nice weather than dining on the patio. Luckily for us, Albuquerque is full of some of the most...

Where To See Fall Leaves In and Around Albuquerque

How lucky we are to live in such a beautiful, vibrant landscape. Our seasons are distinct, and fall in New Mexico arguably takes the...
50+ Things To Do With Teens and Tweens in Albuquerque

50+ Things To Do with Teens and Tweens in Albuquerque

Entertaining teens and tweens can be quite the undertaking. But there's so much to do in the Albuquerque area. You're sure to find the...
el rancho de las golondrinas

El Rancho de Las Golondrinas

If you grew up in Albuquerque, I imagine you took a school field trip to El Rancho de Las Golondrinas in fifth grade. But...

Guide to Pumpkin Patches in the Albuquerque Area

There's not much that will bring all the fall feels like walking through an open field of orange and picking out the most perfect...
Guide to Corn Mazes in the Albuquerque Area

Guide to Corn Mazes in the Albuquerque Area

Nothing says fall time like long stalks of corn to wander through. Some are scary and some are just fun. See below for all...
family friendly restaurants Segura Family Shooters & Albuquerque Moms Blog lifestyle photo family at restaurant

Our Favorite Family Friendly Local Restaurants in Albuquerque

I don't know that I'd call us foodies, but my husband and I definitely like good food. We're also the parents of two lively...
Rooftop Spots to Eat, Drink, & Enjoy the View in Albuquerque

Rooftop Spots to Eat, Drink, & Enjoy the View in Albuquerque

One of my favorite things about living in New Mexico is being able to see for miles around me. It's such a free, uninhibited...
Guide to Date Night in the Albuquerque Area

Guide to Date Night in the Albuquerque Area

Need some inspiration for a special date night with your love? We've broken down all of our favorite, local date night ideas into helpful...
Guide to New Mexico Wineries

Guide to Wineries in New Mexico

Summer is here! It's time to break out the wine glasses and prepare for those perfect New Mexico evenings. Did you know that New Mexico...
Guide to Breweries

Guide to Family-Friendly Breweries In & Around Albuquerque

My husband and I love visiting breweries, and now that we are toting two little ones, having a family-friendly establishment is a necessity. A...
This post is sponsored by Manzano Day School. Albuquerque Mom strives to partner with businesses we feel bring value to our readers.


Comments are closed.